Mental health education and support: vital for students

Katie Patyk (‘18)

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I was diagnosed with depression during my junior year of high school and have been coping with it ever since. I openly talk about it, but I have encountered my share of problems for doing so. People have slammed doors in my face when I have asked for help and I have heard the classic “Have you tried being more positive?” countless times. These actions are not productive or helpful, and in fact, have often made things worse. Sometimes, hurtful comments come from those who have claimed to be supporters of people with mental health issues, but fail to follow through when they face an actual person struggling with mental illness.

Mental illness is often called an “invisible illness.” Normally, when people use this phrase it is to suggest that mental illnesses are invisible because they cannot be observed just by looking at a person’s appearance. However, I think that there is more to this phrasing. Mental illnesses are also “invisible” because most people will not openly express the fact that they have one. In many cases of suicide, friends and family of the deceased will have no idea that anything was wrong because the person seemed happy. I want to suggest that mental illnesses are invisible in part because people are afraid to speak candidly about their mental health problems. The longer I have been at Luther, the more I notice how illiterate people are in terms of mental health, which creates a difficult environment for those who struggle with mental illness. This needs to change.

You can do public marches to decry the stigma of mental illness. You can wear bracelets that say “your life matters” for suicide prevention month, but when you come into contact with a person with a mental illness and have no literacy when it comes to dealing with mental health issues, you cannot be a supporter of the community. You cannot simply direct someone to on-campus resources and then decide that their problems are out of your hands.

Mental illness is not something that goes away, it is something you learn to live with. Though they most certainly do not define the people who have them, they are a part of who they are. You cannot decide to befriend someone on the condition that you never have to hear about their struggles with mental illness and you cannot expect them to confine their struggles to the times when they are in counseling.

Mental illness can be healed in our community or made worse. When the community is illiterate regarding how to treat people with mental illness, they create more stress for the person who is already struggling. Luther needs to work harder to educate people about how to respond to mental illness because the effects that poor responses have on people who deal with mental illnesses not only make their situation worse,but cause them to resort to silence.


Katie Patyk (‘18)

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